Money changes the world, sometimes literally. In this day and age, the human race can build and move massive things, at incredible speeds. We have dug through mountains, redirected rivers, made new islands, and many other seemingly impossible things, and are not going to stop any time soon.
But at the end of the day, a dollar amount is attached to absolutely everything. What is the one thing that can pave roads, pour concrete, link cables, and motivate workers? It’s money. Hundreds of billions of dollars are spent every year on construction costs; as the world gets bigger, more things need to be built.
Here is a list of the ten most expensive construction projects that have ever been completed in the history of mankind. The building costs have been adjusted for inflation, to reflect what they would have cost if they had been payed for today.
10. The Channel Tunnel – $22.4 Billion
Also referred to as the “Chunnel,” the Channel Tunnel spans beneath the stretch of water between the southern coast of England and the northern coast of France. It cost fifteen French and British companies $22.4 billion to complete, and is operated by the financing group Eurotunnel. Escalating demands for safety, security, and environmental measures led to the costs for the project to exceed original estimates by 80%.
Tunnel boring machines began excavating for the projects in 1988, and in 1994, the tunnel began operating. Ten workers tragically died during the construction phase. The Channel Tunnel consists of three parts: two rail tunnels 25 ft in diameter, and one service tunnel 16 ft in diameter. Each span 31 miles underground.
There have been many fires in the Channel Tunnel. Few of such incidents have caused injuries, but one suspended service for several months. Security members have stopped many people from trying to use the tunnel to enter England illegally. One common way people try to do this is by hiding inside cars that are being transported by the Eurostar train.
9. The Big Dig – $23.1 Billion
A nightmare in planning and massively over budget, the Big Dig cost taxpayers an estimated $23.1 billion. The project had to do with rerouting some major highways in the Boston area. The main artery of the road network in the area, Route I-93, was redirected to go directly beneath the heart of the city in an addition called the Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Tunnel.
The project was plagued with financial and administrative problems, including some major design flaws which the state payed nearly $400 million in restitution for. Tragically, one death occurred during construction, when a concrete slab fell onto a car from the ceiling of the Fort Point Channel Tunnel.
Many obstacles got in the way of the project, including some sunken ships which had to be anthropologically examined before they could be moved. The Big Dig ended over ten years behind schedule, and cost millions of dollars more than it was expected to.
8. Kansai International Airport – $29 Billion
The Kansai International Airport cost an estimated $29 billion to make. It is located off of Japan, in the middle of Osaka Bay. It rests on a man-made island, which was constructed to resist the semi-frequent earthquakes and tidal waves of the region. Another reason for building it in the water was to avoid noise complaints.
Kobe and Osaka were losing trade to Tokyo, so plans for the airport were introduced in the 1960’s. Metal support columns and other structural pieces have had to be added to it over the years, in order to prevent it from sinking. A second terminal was added in 2012, and connected to Terminal 1 via a free shuttle.
7. California High-Speed Rail – $33+ Billion
Started in 2015 and slated to be done with Phase 1 by 2029, the California High-Speed Rail project is already way over its original budget. It is the first project of many that will be underway to complete one of President Obama’s first-term pledges, which was to connect some of the major US cities by high-speed rail.
The chief executive officer for the project, Jeff Morales, has said that although the project will cost more than the $33 billion it was originally budgeted for, the costs are trending down due to new emerging technologies.
The initial segment will connect Merced to Bakersfield. Ultimately, it will link San Francisco and Los Angeles, with rails that can support travel up to 220 miles per hour.
6. Songdo International Business District – $40+ Billion
Being built on land reclaimed from the ocean off of Seoul, South Korea, Songdo IBD is estimated to cost over $40 billion. It will be a “smart city” like no other, complete with ubiquitous WiFi, automatic recycling plants, and other technological innovations.
Some replicas of landmarks from other cities will be built there, including one of Central Park. This one will have a small island full of rabbits, and deer that roam around. Songdo IBD is being built to attract businesses and tourists, and will be located close to the Incheon International Airport.
5. Dubailand – $76+ Billion
Construction was halted on this project in 2008, because of a financial crisis in Dubai, then resumed in 2013. So far, it has cost investors $76 billion. If finished, it will be one of the largest and most expensive entertainment facilities in the world. A Disney theme park, IMAX theater, and many other attractions are in its plans.
Design aspects of Dubailand will be based on Arabian Folklore, specifically the tale One Thousand and One Nights. The impetus behind the project was that some thought Dubai needed a major attraction that was geared towards families, to compete with other cities in the region for tourism.
4. King Abdullah Economic City – $86 Billion
When finished, the King Abdullah Economic City will be have an estimated cost of $86 billion. Located a little over an hour away from Mecca, the city is sure to become a grand new tourist attraction for Saudi Arabia. The city will include a couple of high class hotels, many luxury villas, some prestigious universities, and a massive airport.
The KAEC is mostly being built by the real estate group Emaar Properties. They are well known for building the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, in downtown Dubai. Ericsson will be working on the information and communication technology infrastructure for Ethraa, the “smart city” that will be made inside the King Abdullah Economic City.
3. Kashagan Fields – $116 Billion
Located in the Caspian Sea, the Kashagan Fields represent the largest oil discovery made in the last 40 years. $116 billion has been spent on tapping it. The operation is expected to produce over 90,000 barrels of oil per day, starting in 2017. The total amount of retrievable oil that is estimated to be there is a whopping thirteen billion barrels.
Leaks in its pipes and other difficulties have caused delays in construction of the project. One problem is that the fields are under high pressure, which makes drilling into them very dangerous.
The partners involved in this development are Shell, Exxon Mobil, Total, China National Petroleum Corp, KazMunaiGas, INPEX, and AgipKCO, with Shell responsible for the production phase.
2. The International Space Station – $150 Billion
The modular orbiting research station known as the International Space Station cost approximately $150 billion to complete. That figure may seem staggering, but keep in mind that many countries split the tab. The nations responsible for putting together the ISS were the US, Russia, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
Ever wonder what is going to eventually happen to the ISS? The plan right now is that it will be crashed into the ocean, in the year 2020. That will be after 26 years of service.
Russian rockets and the Space Shuttle were the main tools used for making the ISS. Each module was built on Earth, then they were assembled in space. The station was not inhabited until two years into construction, when the Russian module Zvezda was added, which contained the necessary pressurization equipment and sleeping quarters.
1. The US Interstate Highway System – $459 billion
As of 2015, the US Interstate Highway System has cost taxpayers an estimated $459 billion. The President most responsible for its creation is Dwight D. Eisenhower. His idea behind it was not just about transportation. Since it would help mobilize infantry in an emergency, he proposed the project as being crucial for national defense.
The project was started in 1956. It involved creating new routes, and converting old ones to serve as “interstates.” The first state to complete all of its internal parts for the Interstate Highway System was Nebraska, which they did in 1974. Its final piece, the I-70 through Colorado, was finished in 1992.
Despite costing much more than expected, and finishing many years after it was intended to, the IHS has benefited the US and its economy in many ways. Freight costs are an estimated 17% lower for shipping companies who use it, and during Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans utilized “contraflow” measures built into the IHS to accelerate the evacuation.